HL Deb 31 July 1963 vol 252 cc1170-213

3.38 p.m.

Debate resumed.


My Lords, I have certain experience of the subject under discussion in Lordships' House to-day, first, as Commander-in-Chief of great armies in war-time, and, secondly, as a member of the Chiefs of Staff Committee in Whitehall. I should like to say at once that I give a general welcome to the Government's proposals as being a step in the right direction. Ever since 1948 I have advocated this step to ten successive Ministers of Defence—ten, not nine—but all declined to grasp this very prickly nettle. But now at long last we have the organisation.

I think it must be admitted that the organisation which we are to have from April 1, 1964, is a compromise between what is the right and proper organisation, and what the Government reckon will be acceptable in the Whitehall square mile for the time being—and I would emphasise "for the time being". The move over towards a centralised Ministry of Defence is revolutionary so far as we British are concerned. We are the only nation in the Free World, and, so far as I know, in the world not so free, which does not have this organisation. But that by itself is not the reason why we should adopt it.

The reason why we should adopt this organisation is, to my mind, quite clear. We learnt in Hitler's war, the late war, that no one Service can do any good by itself. In the campaigns in which the armies under my command took part we always had one flank on the sea—always; in the early stages of the campaign in Italy, in September, 1943, we had both flanks on the sea; and above us always was the mighty weapon of air power. Without sea-power and air-power we on the ground could have achieved very little. Therefore, any changes in organisation which tend towards making the three Services act as one close-knit fighting machine is right. It has come very late; but better late than never.

My Lords, to-day Service loyalties are divided, dependent on whether the fighting man wears khaki or whether he wears a particular shade of blue. I read with great interest in a London newspaper on July 17 a leading article on the new organisation. In that article were these words—and I quote: Inter-Service squabbles will continue, and it is right that they should do so". I reckon it is not right that they should do so. We have suffered too long from inter-Service rivalries, each Service fighting for its own corner when money is tight. The result has been compromise all down the line, and never the right solution. The three Services must now learn to pull together as one team, and the proper way to ensure this is to train the officer to be completely inter-Service from his earliest days. With the organisation proposed, that would mean tri-Service cadet colleges—as they have in Canada, for instance, which I have seen and which are extremely good. It would also mean integrating the three Service staff colleges. Without those steps being taken, I do not believe that this new organisation will ever develop its full potential.

Now it is not clear to me whether the War Office is to retain its name or become the Army Office. That is not clear: but I hope the latter. The story is told of a lady who, during the war, wanted to go to the War Office to ask for some information about a relative. She knew it was somewhere in Whitehall, but was not quite certain where it was, so she said to a policeman at the top of Whitehall, "Officer, which side is the War Office on?"; and the "copper" replied, "Ours, I hope".

My Lords, there will come a time eventually when we shall have one fighting Service—eventually—some of whom serve on the sea, some in the air and some on the land. We cannot turn over to that system to-day; it would not be accepted in Whitehall and it would not be accepted in the nation. But it will come, and my guess is that it will come after the next world war. Now I have a certain sympathy with some of the remarks made by the noble Earl, the Leader of the Opposition, but I would add this to them. I do not think that, to-day, it would be right for the Government to produce a completed, final blueprint for the organisation we are now discussing. It is a revolutionary change, and the details must be evolved step by step. Where the present outline is proved to be wrong, changes must be made. I would say that it will take some years to get exactly the right answer.

I should like to mention a few points which, in my view, need very close examination—and the first one is manpower. A study of the White Paper leaves me with the impression that the manpower employed in the four Ministries is going to increase under the new, centralised organisation. I asked for the present figures, your Lordships will remember, last week, and they were published in the OFFICIAL REPORT. The grand total of the manpower in the Service Ministries in Whitehall is just under 24,000. That is quite a sizeable army. My Lords, the new organisation must result in a decrease in manpower at the top. If it does not, we shall have failed. I hope that the First Lord, or maybe the Foreign Secretary, will recommend to the Minister of Defence that, when the new organisation comes into being there must be, in the Service Ministries, an intensive use of weed-killer. I think the Minister of Defence should go into production with weed-killer pretty quickly. It will be needed in heavy and concentrated doses. In fact, I think that the whole question of manpower in the Ministries in Whitehall demands the closest scrutiny by Parliament at all times.

The next point is what I would call political control. I have learnt in my military career that the higher direction of war and the direction of the military machine in peace time must always remain firmly in political hands. The allegiance of the fighting man in war and in peace must be given to the State. It is not open to the fighting man to change his allegiance because of any political views he may hold. Similarly, defence should be a non-Party matter, divorced from Party politics. But it is not, which is a very great tragedy. My Lords, the danger is this. From a study of the White Paper, it will be seen that under the new organisation the three Service Ministries have been downgraded; and so has the P.U.S., the Permanent Under-Secretary, in each Ministry. In fact, political control has been weakened. Very great power is now to be concentrated in the hands of two men: the Chief of the Defence Staff and the Chief Scientific Adviser. Under the new organisation, the Minister of Defence will need to be a pretty good guy. It will be fatal if he is to change frequently. Your Lordships will recall that we had ten Ministers of Defence between 1947 and 1962; and, during the two years from October, 1954, to October, 1956, we had four Ministers of Defence—Mr. Macmillan, Mr. Selwyn Lloyd, Lord Monckton of Brenchley and Mr. Head. If that sort of musical chairs is to go on, the new organisation cannot possibly succeed. The higher direction would then get into the hands of the Admirals, the Generals and the Air Marshals, with fatal results.


My Lords, before the noble and gallant Viscount leaves that subject, may I put this point to him? When we last debated these matters he favoured the downgrading of the Service Ministers. Does he still favour that, or not? I am not quite clear from what he said.


I do not. I recommended that they should be called the "Secretary to the Army", the "Secretary to the Navy", and so on. What I mean now is that this question of political control must be carefully watched. That is the point. You were quite right.

Now, my Lords, I come to the question of the right of access to the Prime Minister. In the Defence debate in your Lordships' House on March 13 last I suggested that the three Service Chiefs must not be allowed direct access to the Prime Minister. I now see in paragraph 17 of the White Paper that this right is to be given. I consider it to be entirely wrong that they should be allowed to lobby the Prime Minister. How can the head of a department in Whitehall or, for that matter, in business have any firm authority if his subordinates are allowed to lobby a higher level when they feel aggrieved, or when they disagree with some decision given by their immediate boss? How can he have any full authority?

To allow such action is to encourage disloyalty; and that paragraph in the White Paper robs it of much of its value. If a Service Chief disagrees vehemently with some decision or some proposal—or if all three do—it will be the duty of the Chief of the Defence Staff to lay the matter before the Minister of Defence, who will presumably see the Service Chiefs concerned and give a ruling; and, if he thought fit, he would take them to see the Prime Minister. It will also be the bounden duty of the Chief of the Defence Staff to inform the Minister of Defence of differences of opinion among Service Chiefs; and I would add that he should always give his own opinion very firmly at the same time.

The next point is the choice of the Chief of the Defence Staff. I do not think we should adopt a system by which the appointment of Chief of the Defence Staff is held by each Service in turn. The present Chief of the Defence Staff is Admiral Mountbatten. It will be his task to get the Service side of this business what I would call properly "run in". If the best man to succeed him in due course is another Admiral, let him be appointed. We must always have the best possible man for this responsible job, and we must avoid "Buggins's turn". The issues at stake are far too serious for that. I should like to say one word about simplicity. When you look at the table at the end of this Paper you get the feeling that it is rather complicated; and it may be. What I would say, generally, is that tremendous administrative problems are going to arise; they will be really terrific. Therefore I am glad to see that the noble Lord, Lord Robertson of Oakridge, is to speak shortly. I reckon that he has more knowledge of administration in war time than any other Member of your Lordships' House.

My Lords, I should like next to say a word or two about war in the nuclear age. The defence council, in my view, will need to embark on a serious study of this subject, because their thinking will affect the shape and size of our Armed Forces and of the Civil Defence organisation in this country. Let me give one example. I find it quite impossible to visualise a war of the future being supported by our present logistic or administrative organisation; but your Lordships will know very well that the British army in Germany is to-day being trained for a nuclear war with our existing administrative set-up. We have a vast complicated organisation for the distribution of material all over the world. There are hundreds of committees in peace time—there would be more in war—receiving millions of reports; and they issue thousands of instructions every day. No communications system would carry that load in war time. Anybody who thinks that the present administrative system will work after thousands of nuclear weapons have been exchanged is absolutely barmy. After the first nuclear exchange, nothing of any size or quantity will move on land in the area in which these weapons have exploded or are exploding. Only on the sea will surface movement of any size be possible. That is a very important factor.

The lesson is, I think, that the side which maintains its maritime strength in peace time is the one that will succeed in the reconstruction period which will come when the fighting has ceased. Hence the importance of sea power. Time will not allow me to develop the subject further. It is sufficient to say that the most intensive study is essential in order to get out of the logistic morass in which we are plunged to-day. There is also that very well-known NATO disease called "committee-itis"—a disease not unknown in Whitehall. It reminds me of the story of the boy who said to his father "Father, what is a camel?" The father replied "My son, a camel is a horse designed by a committee."

Let me conclude by saying that the new organisation is better than ever before. The way ahead may seem to bristle with difficulties. To those who think thus I would quote Metternich's observation, No matter is so easily settled as that which appears to present overwhelming difficulties. My Lords, I know that very well. In the spring of 1944 I could have written a paper to prove that it was quite impossible to land our armies in Normandy. I could also write a paper to prove that it could be done successfully—which, in fact, I did. I accept absolutely the statement by the First Lord that the new organisation goes as far as is possible for the time being; but there is one point to consider. If we are not careful there will still be the danger of promoting individual Service interests over those of the nation. It has happened too often in the past; it must never be allowed to happen again.

3.58 p.m.


My Lords, it is one of the advantages of your Lordships' House that on subjects such as this we are able to hear distinguished members of the Fighting Forces. It has been remarked that it has taken a long time for this Government to produce anything. It they had produced it earlier we might have had the advantage of hearing the views of Lord Alanbrooke, Lord Cunningham of Hyndhope and others. I shall not be accused of standing against any integration of the Services; the question is how best it can be done. I recall advocating a Minister of Defence in the House of Commons as long ago as 1936. For many years we carried on a campaign for that; we got it in the war, and we set up that Ministry after the war.

A point always made against the idea of a Minister of Defence is that he will have far too powerful a Ministry—one man wielding immense power. Of course that was imagined by the Conservative Government, who would not allow anybody to stay in the Ministry of Defence for more than a few months in case he became too powerful. It had an unfortunate effect. We had not had what the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, demanded—a strong hand at the top. We had not had the strong personal contact that we should have had. It has been a great disadvantage all through that the Minister of Defence has been treated as a kind of siding in which Ministers were put, either on their way up or on their way down, and that no one put there has remained long enough to deal with these problems.

We are now to have an exaltation of the Minister of Defence and a downgrading of the Service Ministers. I do not like that. I always believed that the Minister of Defence should be a very important person; but I believed that he should have a definite sphere of operations, and that there should be a definite sphere for the Ministers of the Fighting Services. It is true that it was due to me that the Service Ministers were taken out of the Cabinet. I believe that that decision was sound, because the tendency used to be to make people heads of the Services just because of their status in the Party or in the House, and so they had to be Cabinet Ministers. We got rid of that principle. We also reduced the number of Ministers in the Cabinet by putting in the Minister of Defence and by that making the Ministers Ministers of Cabinet rank, but I never dreamed that we should de-grade them now by making them mere glorified Under-Secretaries. The title Minister of State was an invention of Sir Winston Churchill and merely gave a sort of extra status to an Under-Secretary. The title was used particularly for the Foreign Office, the Colonial Office and the Commonwealth Relations Office, but Ministers of State are little more than Under-Secretaries. And the heads of the Fighting Services are now de-graded down to the level of Ministers of State. I believe that that is a mistake. I do not know how it will affect the Services.

A second thing I never approved of was the interposition between the Chiefs of Staff and the Minister of Defence of the Chief of Staff of Defence. I think that that was a mistake. What the Minister of Defence required was not another "high-up", but an adviser, a helper, a co-ordinator. In fact, what he wanted was another "Pug" Ismay—very rare, but a man of that status—to assist him in his job of dealing with the Chiefs of Staff. I do not believe in having someone put over the Chiefs of Staff. Our view at the time (I think it was a general view) was that the three Chiefs of Staff were a Chief of Staff in commission, and, provided there was co-operation, it worked very well. I am told that it did not work well before the Second World War, but it certainly worked afterwards. We had very wise and skilled Chairmen, like the noble Lords, Lord Alanbrooke, Lord Tedder and others, and we were getting the kind of co-ordination we wanted, without the interposition of somebody else. Now we are to have a Minister in charge of all the three Fighting Services. He will be too powerful, and he will have too much work.

I do not like some of the set-up here. I do not like the idea in this chart of the Ministers, nominally at all events, having to preside over the Army Council under a different name, and over the Lords of the Admiralty, with a different name, and also over the Air Council. It is only a matter of nomenclature. There is an awful lot of "eyewash" in this White Paper. We are not changing the substance of anything by changing the name. In practice, the Minister will delegate the work to the Service Ministers. That is what it amounts to, after all. Unless he is going to be submerged in detail, he must leave this to the Service Ministers, who are now to be mere Ministers of State. It does not seem worth while to go to this degradation of these Ministers merely to put a purely nominal point, in which the Minister of Defence is to preside over all these Committees.

I do not care much for the set-up here. I think there is an awful lot of harness and too little horse. New Committees of all kinds are being set up. I welcome some of the changes, such as the new position given to the scientists. But all these things were in process of being done, and would have been done, and we should have had the necessary co-ordination, if we had had one Minister of Defence instead of nine. After all, the question is largely one of personality. The set-up works well if we have the right people. An immense amount of power is to be given to the Chief of Staff of the Defence Ministry. That is all right if we get an exceptional man, such as we have at present; but in legislation we must cater for the ordinary man. We shall not always have people with the kind of experience we have at present—like the noble and gallant Earl, Lord Mountbatten of Burma, for instance, or some of his predecessors.

I think that the idea behind this organisation is right. There is no earthly reason why we should not have had it before. It may need some slight changes. But I am not very enamoured of this setting up of a Pentagon in Whitehall—assembling there, so far as I can see, a whole mass of staff officers from the various Ministries. I think that it will lead to duplication. We shall have the same kind of officers duplicated in the Service Departments. The idea is that we shall integrate the three Services in one building, but separate the heads of the Services from their administrative units. I do not think that that is a good idea. Altogether, I do not care very much for this elaborate organisation here—all these different executives with staffs. I do not see that they will show any improvement on what we had before. I think that the Defence Committee of the Cabinet as we had it, ensured the right amount of co-ordination between the Foreign Office, the Commonwealth Relations Office and the Fighting Services. I do not see why we want these extra Committees. I think that the Chiefs of Staff, as the noble and gallant Viscount said will be suffering from "committee-itis".

Fundamentally, the matter rests on personnel. Who are we going to get to run the show? If we are not going to get an effective Minister of Defence, then the show will be run by his Chief of Staff, who may or may not be good. I should beware here of what I think is a real danger—the loss of ministerial control. Some people like the American system. I do not. You have the Pentagon. In my experience, anything less co-ordinated than the American system could not possibly exist. In war time, we had Admiral King fighting one war and the soldiers fighting another war; and with their system of only one Executive, the civilians had not much control. I doubt whether they have it to-day.

I think it is essential, as the noble and gallant Viscount said, that you should have adequate political control, and I do not think you get it. In Defence matters the Prime Minister should be constantly involved, and he must have the last word. In these days, when you are nominally at peace and do not have too much trouble, he must personally look into these Defence matters. I have always regarded a Minister of Defence as a Prime Minister's alter ego for Defence purposes; not an independent power, but working closely with him. That I think we had. I think it was proved by the way it worked when we had the sudden question of sending a force to Korea. We had no difficulty. It was worked out; the three Services co-operated, and it was all done in a very short time. We had our headquarters out there at Hong Kong, we brought in the Canadians and Australians, and we had the Commonwealth Division. All this worked very smoothly.

It depends on the men and their training. If your Air Marshals, Admirals and Generals are taught in the modern way in the Defence colleges, and so on, to work together and look at all Defence questions from the Defence angle, then they will work together. I cannot conceive anybody nowadays thinking that there could be a separate war without taking into consideration the necessary interdependence of the Services. It seems to me that the statements here, far from announcing some wonderful new gospel, are merely stating the obvious of what has to be done. Over-elaboration here merely means that they find it necessary to set out in great detail what used to be done, and what should have been done during the last twelve years. It is the spirit of the thing and the personnel that matter, not elaborate paper constitutions.

I do not think this should be put in force at once. It ought to be taken back and looked at again, preferably by a new Ministry. I do not think our present Prime Minister is really very good at administration. A Minister never seems to do his own job. A Foreign Secretary or Commonwealth Secretary is always liable to be superseded in any crisis by one of these peripatetic Pooh Bahs, Mr. Butler or the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham. I do not think the general set-up is good. I feel that we should get back to a good deal more simplicity, and more responsibility should be given to the people who ought to have the responsibility. As I say, I hope this will be taken back and looked at again, and preferably brought in by a new Government who understand the subject and know something about administration.

4.15 p.m.


My Lords, I feel honoured at following the noble Earl, Lord Attlee. He must have had considerable experience in Defence matters, and I somewhat hesitate to criticise his views. I must say I am rather inclined to agree that the Ministers of the Fighting Services should remain of Cabinet rank, and perhaps the Government will give further thought to this point. I do not agree with the noble Earl that these points and others should be considered by a new Government. On the whole, I should like to congratulate the Government on this scheme for the central organisation of Defence as a compromise basis of the many conflicting interests. I am sorry that, as yet, it has not been possible to debate the Service Estimates for this year, which have a great bearing on the matter we are discussing to-day. Many of us realise the reasons for this.

I feel sure that the bringing together of strategic planning, direction of operations, intelligence and communications is all to the good and should make for better efficiency in the conduct of war. I am glad that the views of the extremists have been resisted. We have heard of recommendations in some quarters for a single, unified Defence Service, with even a common type of uniform. I suggest that any move in that direction would be quite unrealistic for this country. We have strategic needs and obligations which require the maintenance of at least two individual Services, and probably three, for a long time to come. But I think it is possible that in the not too distant future we may see the merging of the Royal Navy and the Air Force.

There is no doubt that the real reason behind this Central Organisation for Defence is financial, and it is hoped that Defence expenditure will be reduced. But I cannot help feeling that Parkinson's Law will very quickly become operative and little money, if any, will be saved in the great Civil Service establishment which will arise in Whitehall Gardens. I hope that the new central organisation will not mean that the Services are to be directed by a series of interminable committees. This could very well happen, and it is a danger we must guard against. I think it is a pity that the time-honoured names of Board of Admiralty, Army Council and Air Council are to be done away with, and these bodies are to have the new names of Navy Board, Army Board and Air Board. Surely this was unnecessary. But I suppose it was a sop to the extremists.

In spite of what has been said by my noble and gallant friend, Lord Montgomery of Alamein, I am very much in agreement with the proposal that the professional heads of all three Services, the Chiefs of Staff, are to retain the right of access to the Prime Minister. I am sure this will have a steadying effect on the Services as a whole; I am certain it will for the Navy, for which I can speak. I think the officers and men will feel that they will have a degree of protection from the great octopus in Whitehall. Integration is very much a state of mind, and I suggest that if this plan is to be a success we must start considering the integration of initial training. I entirely support what has been said by my noble and gallant friend in this direction. It must mean the integration of training at an early age with the three Service colleges, and, in fact, a joint Service cadet college. I suggest that something of this nature must come about if the process of integration is to continue more closely in the future.

I do not mean to suggest that the Services should lose their separate identities, but in action they are increasingly interdependent. This will undoubtedly grow, and therefore some form of integration in training at an early age is, I feel, of the utmost importance. I think it is true to say that some of your Lordships are worried that integration may bring in its wake more and larger staffs and smaller actual fighting units. I am sure we all hope that this will not happen, although the danger is ever-present. On the whole, I welcome the plan of Her Majesty's Government. I feel sure it can be made to work if Service rivalries can be forgotten, and a great step forward can be taken in the provision of joint Service weapons which, in the long run, should save the country a great deal of money.

4.20 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to start my remarks in the same was as I intend to end them, and that is by saying that I warmly welcome these proposals. During the course of my speech I shall have some criticisms to offer, and even some suggestions, but the real impression I wish to leave with your Lordships is that I welcome the proposals. I will talk of them briefly under the four headings, political, military, financial and scientific.

On the political side, the proposals strike me as being simple, clear and right. I am glad that the title "Ministers of State" has been considered the right one for the four subordinate Ministers who are to have special responsibilities in relation to the individual Services. I am even more glad that they are to be regarded as deputies, as it were, to the Secretary of State, with responsibilities over the same defence field. I am afraid that in this respect I am expressing an opinion that is contrary to the opinion expressed by the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, and that is a very awesome thought. But I am bound to say that I differ from him in this and one or two other matters in regard to this field, and if I express myself in moderate terms I trust that he will not think me impertinent or that I have forgotten my very great respect for him.

I have only one query about the political set-up, and that is this: who will represent the Government on defence in your Lordships' Chamber? Any of your Lordships who heard my speech in March will know that I personally consider that this Chamber should be the main forum for the debating of the great strategic and defence issues, and I feel that the Minister of Defence, with his responsibilities for over-all control, with a need for him to stand back, could do his work best if he were in this Chamber. But he might not be; I know that. If he is not, who will represent the Government here? I hope that it can be arranged that the Government will be represented here by someone of Cabinet rank. If that seems to imply a recommendation for promotion of the present First Lord of the Admiralty, well, why not?

I now turn to the military side of the organisation, and I use the word "military" in its widest sense. Here the critical decision forecast in the proposals put before us in March has been maintained; that is to say, responsibility for tendering professional advice to the Government on strategy has been placed collectively with the Chiefs of Staff Committee. All four Chiefs of Staff may be present at Cabinet meetings, and all four are to have the right of direct access to the Prime Minister. One hears it often said that this is the arrangement we had in the last war, and that it worked well then. That is probably so, but I think those who say this must also agree that no organisation, however well it has worked in the past, can ever be regarded as static, sacrosanct and immutable. If conditions have changed, the organisation may have to change, and I urge your Lordships to believe that conditions have changed enormously, as is brought out in the White Paper. What we need to-day, surely, is an organisation which will take account of what the Green Book on Defence (I think it is Cmnd. 1936) calls the essential unity of our defence forces". We need an organisation to take account of the essential unity of our defence forces.

The noble and gallant Viscount, Lord Montgomery of Alamein, gave his reason again to-day for objecting to the right of direct access being given to the Chiefs of Staff. He supported his argument mainly with the idea that these Chiefs of Staff should not be given an opportunity to lobby over the head of the Chief of the Defence Staff. I agree with that, but I have another concern in this matter. It is that, under such an arrangement, it seems to me that professional military advice will be all too easily ignored. Picture the scene round that well-known baize covered table when some very awkward and tricky defence problem is being discussed, and all four Chiefs of Staff are present. They come into the room, having agreed upon their compromise advice to the Government, and it lies now before the Ministers. After half an hour or so of cross-examination of this individual and then that, it is my suggestion that their agreement will very clearly be shown for what it is, and all their previous disagreements, doubts, and fears will be laid bare, and then the professional military advice which ought to ring out clear for all to hear will be completely confused and irreconcilable. That is my fear about it.

The late Lord Grey of Falloden in his book Twenty-five Years, which I was rereading recently, ascribed many of our troubles of the First World War to exactly this tendency on the part of Governments—or the Government of that day, at least—to seek a variety of military advice. I will give your Lordships the page to show that this is a genuine quotation. On page 74, volume 2, he used this expression which stuck in my mind: The highest military opinion cannot be divided. In this White Paper the Chief of the Defence Staff is referred to as the principal military adviser of the Government, and it is good at least that he is "the principal". But the very fact that that qualifying adjective is there shows that he is not the only one. Very deliberately, the highest military advice in this plan is being divided. So when the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, looked very hard in my direction and said that there were some people who thought these proposals did not go far enough, he was altogether right if he thought that I was one of them, because I certainly am.

On the other hand, what is being done is a great advance on what we have got already, and that I readily accept. In parenthesis, in March I made one suggestion in this field—namely, that perhaps it might be considered wise to give the Chief of the Defence Staff a higher rank than that held by any of his colleagues, and I have wondered since whether that recommendation appealed to the Government at all. Before I leave the Chiefs of Staff, I noted the point raised by the noble Earl, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, about the second title of the Chief of Naval Staff. I had noted that point myself, and thought it was a little hard on the soldiers. Could we not find a second title for the Chief of the General Staff? Perhaps he could be called First Land Lord. Landlords are not very popular, but he could be First Lord of the Land, and his colleague First Lord of the Air. That might be going too far. This is not, of course, a serious point, and I know that well enough. The Government have apparently agreed to this title, and it would ill become a poor "Pongo" like myself to appear to be jealous of it. But I should like to assure the Senior Service that their position in the high esteem and deep affection of all of us does not depend on a title of this sort.


My Lords, may I interrupt the noble Lord? I am following his arguments about the Chiefs of Staff with great interest. Is it his understanding that the Chiefs of Staff are never likely in the future to meet under the chairmanship of the Secretary of State for Defence which was, of course, provided for explicitly in the 1958 White Paper, and not in this? I was wondering whether that was his understanding.


My Lords, I had imagined that meetings of that sort would continue. The actual structure of the committee working which is proposed is given in the White Paper, but I had certainly imagined that that kind of meeting would continue. The only point I am making is that I think it is a mistake to allow the individual Chiefs a Staff to be separate military advisers to the Government.

The White Paper does not tell us much about what is going to happen on the administrative side. I feel that is probably inevitable. This is detailed stuff and there is a great deal that obviously cannot be dealt with immediately. One feature which I welcomed very warmly was the appointment of a Deputy Chief of the Defence Staff for Personnel and Logistics. That, I am sure, is absolutely right, and I hope that he will be given plenty of authority.

I was also very interested in the solution adopted for defence signals. Maybe I am reading too much into this, but it seems to me that this is the first attempt to organise a technical service on a functional and professional basis. In using the adjective "functional" I hope I am not going against the disapproving voice which the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, used in regard to functional organisation. He did, I think, agree that there might be some cases where such an organisation would be appropriate. I personally hold the view that in due course we shall come to a more functional and professional organisation for all the engineering services, which will give us an organisation parallel to what exists in civil life. I am thinking of civil, mechanical, electrical and transportation engineers particularly. I think there is hope for great economies and for gaining efficiency; and, especially by working on the same lines as those adopted in civil life, it would facilitate expansion in war greatly. I looked in the White Paper for something to be said about other administrative services, notably supply, contracts and movement control. They are not there, and one can understand that, for they are detailed matters; but I hope that the fact that they are not mentioned does not mean that progress in their rationalisation has become bogged down.

On the financial side the decision is that there should not be one Vote and one Accounting Officer, but four Votes and four Accounting Officers. That is a matter of Treasury mystique, and I am not going to argue the point. There are only two things, it seems to me, that matter in this field. The first is that the authority of the Minister and of his Permanent Under-Secretary must not be qualified by measures herein proposed for decentralisation. In other words, he and his Permanent Under-Secretary must have the right to ask for any information from anybody inside the organisation at any time they like. The other point which I think is important is that the authority of the Minister and of his Permanent Under-Secretary shall not be, as it were, interfered with by the Treasury, but they must deal through him and not on any account deal direct with the individual Services. If the Minister could give assurances on those two points I certainly should feel satisfied about the financial provisions.

The correct organisation of research and development, as I think we have all recognised from the start, is one of the most difficult, tricky and urgent parts of this whole business. The existing organisation, it is generally accepted, is a flop. That is one of those brash statements unsupported by any evidence of which speakers are sometimes rather fond, but, I think, in this instance few will contradict me. Reading what is proposed in section X of the White Paper, which starts on page 7, I had the feeling of getting lost in a labyrinth of committees, working parties and panels. Committees are very good things, of course; we all have committees; they are very necessary. But I think noble Lords will agree that they are a menace in the absence of a clear chain of personal responsibility and personal authority, and that is what I do not find in this section of the White Paper. I think that the Government may like to have a look at it again and ensure that in the final draft of the Bill and whatever else goes out it is made more definite and more sharp. I hoped to find, for example, something like this: The Chief Scientific Adviser is responsible for all defence research and development. The scientific staffs of the present Ministry of Defence and the present Service Departments will work together under the Chief Scientific Adviser as the defence scientific staff. I did find it there, but it was all tied up with qualifying adverbs and adjectives until the impression left in my mind was a very blurred one. I think it could be sharpened up.

The decision has been taken to retain the position as regards the Ministry of Aviation, which is responsible at the moment for the most important and most vital part of research and development for our fighting Services. The White Paper tells us, as we know already, that the Ministry of Aviation also has civil responsibilities. It tells us that these responsibilities are indivisible, which is no doubt right. If they are indivisible, they must stay with one Ministry. It might be the Ministry of Aviation, who will then act as agent for the Ministry of Defence; or it might be the Ministry of Defence, who will act as agent for the Ministry of Aviation; or it will have to be some new Ministry who will act as agent for both. The choice has been made that things should continue as at present, and that these responsibilities should continue to rest with the Ministry of Aviation. This decision is an odd one. I say "odd", because the work which the Ministry of Aviation does at the moment for the Defence forces is by far the larger part of its work and, by comparison, what it does for civil aviation is quite subordinate. The only justification I can see for this arrangement is that when such an immense piece of reorganisation is being attempted one cannot do everything at once, and it may be that the Government are maturing further plans for the better organisation of research and development generally.

This brings to my mind the chief criticism which has been levelled against the reorganisation—and it has been levelled this afternoon by the noble Earl the Leader of the Opposition—namely, that this is a tremendous reorganisation. It will create a monster Department; the Secretary of State for Defence will be overburdened; and the Chief of the Defence Staff (and this is the most horrible thought of all), in the words of that eminent journal which we read and whose wisdom we imbibe every Thursday, the Economist, will become eventually the most powerful salaried, unpolitical figure who has ever had the privilege of spending the largest part of our income tax for us. This is a serious matter. I quite recognise that. But in all humility, I offer my (what shall I say?) philosophy in this matter to you. When there is a job to be done which clearly requires a single directing brain and a single controlling hand, then that job must be given to a single individual, and it does not help, and does not solve the problem, to split the job up between several men.

One must, however, take precautions in the matter. The first precaution, obviously, is the choice of the individual; and here, as regards the Minister, I entirely endorse what has been said about changing men round every few months as a question of political convenience. I entirely endorse what was said by the noble and gallant Field Marshal, Lord Montgomery of Alamein, about the Chief of the Defence Staff: we must have the best man available regardless of his Service and origin. That is the first essential. The second safeguard is that the man in question must be provided with an organisation to which he can decentralise without losing his grip on essentials. The third safeguard is that the men in question must be made accountable to his superiors, and in the case of the Chief of the Defence Staff that of course means his political superiors. In the case of the Minister, there is no problem; he is accountable to the Cabinet. The Chief of the Defence Staff is a difficult case, but I suggest his position is a little akin to those at the head of the great nationalised industries. There the matter of accountability, as I am perhaps in some position to know, has been a puzzle; but I think that we are in a fair way to settle it, and I believe if care is taken we can settle it satisfactorily in this case also.

Now I will end, as I started, by saying that I welcome these proposals warmly. In my view, they are a very important step in the right direction; they do the Government credit and I hope that the Government will pursue them, and that any Government that may come after the present one will pursue them also, because I believe they are fundamentally right. I have said I do not think they go far enough, but then one must recognise that Governments have difficulties in these matters. There were proposals of a similar nature matured not so very long ago, and such violent fanatical resistance was put up against them that they had to be completely dropped, and the clock was set back for some years. Therefore it is understandable if the Government feel they have to move by stages. I think that when these proposals have gone in and bedded down they will prove their own best argument for their development, and people will say, "This is very good. We ought to have done this before, and now we must carry it to its logical conclusion". And it is in that hope that I commend these proposals to your Lordships' approval.

4.42 p.m.


My Lords, I can be quite brief, because I gave my views pretty fully in our debate in March when we had the statement on which this White Paper is founded, but I should like to give these proposals, now we see them in print, a very warm welcome. I think that in most essentials they are thorough and good. What I regard as the first essential is emphasised, and that is this: that the Minister of Defence shall be the author and originator of policy, and not an arbiter, as he has far too often been in the past. And there, quite frankly, I take issue entirely with the noble Earl, Lord Attlee. I think it is essential that the Service Ministers should occupy within the Ministry of Defence the subordinate position which is assigned to them now. It will remain a pretty important position. But if you try to get the best of both worlds in the way the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, suggested you will, I think, end by getting the worst of both worlds; you will make the Ministers the originators of policy and not the collaborators under the Minister of Defence, and you will turn him again into an arbiter.

The other matter which was not quite clear when we debated it before and on which I expressed a very strong opinion was that it is essential that the Minister of Defence should have control of research and development. That is now made clear in the White Paper, and I am very glad to see it, because I think it very important. The Minister will be assisted by the best staff which can be assembled from the three Services, and they will work together as a unified and integrated body; and he will also have a first-class scientific staff with a call on outside scientists. All this is to the good. Inevitably this central combined staff will be large, although quality is more important than size the more important the work is. But I should like to support the noble and gallant Field Marshal in his appeal that this large, centralised staff will be counterbalanced by a very considerable reduction in the staffs of the individual Services. Not only is this a necessary economy but—and this is a point that has not been taken but I think it is a sound one—unless there is economy by a reduction of the individual staffs I believe there is a real danger that those staffs, continuing on an enormous scale, may breed resistance to the spirit, and practice of integration.

Frankly, I like the plans and I like the machine, but I have one criticism—an important criticism, I think; certainly in Parliament it is important—and a constructive suggestion to offer. The Ministry and the Minister must obviously cover a huge field: the whole field of defence policy, long-term and applied scientific research and development, strategy and operational planning, and intelligence. That, indeed, is a full-time job. But, in addition, the Minister of Defence is responsible for the whole financial side: he must be. He has to present a single, combined Defence Estimate covering the whole of the activities through all the Services, and on the scientific side and the research side for which he is responsible. He is responsible for estimating for all three Services; he is responsible for all expenditure; he is responsible for placing orders and for all supplies; he is responsible for accounting; he is responsible for seeing that he gets economy in the staffs of the three Services. It is quite right that this financial, administrative, accounting responsibility should be vested in the Ministry and that it should be integrated in the same way as the rest of Defence, but it seems to me that while that is right, it requires the same centralised supervision and control as policy and strategy and research.

My suggestion is this. I know that the Permanent Under Secretary is made responsible for presenting these Estimates and I suppose he is the man who will appear before the Public Accounts Committee. But he is a Civil Servant and he cannot in any way be responsible to Parliament. Yet it is through the whole of this expenditure that Parliament ultimately exercises its control. Would it not be a good idea to have in this Ministry a Chief Financial Secretary, as you have in the Treasury to-day? It has been found desirable and, I think, necessary in the Treasury, with the enormously wide field that a Chancellor of the Exchequer has to cover, the whole of economic policy and finance as well as the mass of detail, that he should have a man of Cabinet rank, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury: and I believe that is working well in the Treasury to-day.

Would that not be equally desirable in the Ministry of Defence? Certainly, it would relieve the Minister of Defence of what would otherwise be an intolerable, and I think an unbearable, load, and I think it would be most acceptable to Parliament. That is the one practical suggestion I want to make to the Government. I hope that it may be carefully considered, because I believe they would find it a useful counterpart to their proposals and something which would greatly ease their administration and the relationship of the Minister to both Houses of Parliament.

4.51 p.m.


My Lords, there is a great deal of high power taking part in this debate. I have already counted two First Lords, one past and one present. We are to have another First Lord. We have had an ex-Secretary of State for Air; we have an ex-Secretary of State for War and the Chief of Staff. Therefore it is rather difficult for someone who was but an humble officer during the war (although, fortunately, I served on the staff of my noble friend Lord Douglas of Kirtleside, which was quite an education) to deal in these high-powered matters. But it is a fact that towards the end of the war, and indeed after the war, many people, at all levels, were discussing the need for a more unified approach to defence; and many of us at the most painful level of all, the level where it hurt, saw some of the consequences of inter-Service rivalry.

I start off, therefore, by advocating, as indeed I have constantly done since I first entered Parliament, when I was in the Air Force, an approach to a greater degree of unification of defence. The question is whether the Government's proposals help us in the right direction, whether they go far enough, or whether they are merely a device to cover up failure. There is no question that there has been failure. Whether or not we wish to blame the Government for it, the fact remains that they have been responsible for a failure—and they admit this in paragraph 5 of their White Paper, when they say that the arrangements have not secured the degree of central control necessary, and so on. It is quite obvious that, for reasons which several noble Lords and in particular, that non-political and gallant noble Viscount, Lord Montgomery of Alamein (who always makes a plea to take defence out of politics), have pointed out, one of the main reasons was this continual chain of Ministers of Defence marching in and out of the Ministry, with a certain degree of continuity supplied by the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, when he was Parliamentary Secretary. The noble Lord, Lord Carrington, outlasted several Ministers of Defence, and, quite clearly, is far more qualified to be Secretary of State for Defence than many of those who passed fleetingly by.

It is curious with what almost frivolity and lack of seriousness the Conservative Government have taken Defence questions. I do not want to make too much of this point. Most people would expect a Labour Government not to be particularly interested in Defence. Instead, my noble friends Lord Attlee and Lord Alexander of Hillsborough are passionately interested in Defence, in a way that Conservative Prime Ministers have not been. Quite frankly, if Defence is to be taken seriously (this is really what we are facing up to in this White Paper) it is quite obvious that there must be much more continuity in the future, and Secretaries of State for Defence will have to occupy their position for a considerable time: not because I do not believe that political heads of Ministries are not in some degree interchangeable, but because it is obvious that, with the greater complexities and with the responsibility of dealing with as many high-powered professionals as there are in the Defence Services, we need not only a Secretary of State who will have an astute mind and great strength of character, but one who slightly knows his way around.

It may be that we are fated always to make gross errors in Defence and equipment, but the serious mistakes that have been made in recent years in the operational requirement field may spring from either a failure of man or a failure of system. It is not my object to-day simply to attach blame to the Government, beyond pointing to these failures. Now we hear a rumour that yet another cancellation is to take place—I refer to the TSR 2. Five years ago, we had a certain period of continuity in Defence and, when Mr. Duncan Sandys was in the office, a strong-minded Defence Minister. He imposed a strong and carefully thought out policy on the country. Unfortunately in the event it happened to be totally wrong—I refer to Blue Streak. I must confess that I was inclined to support him at the time. After that, we had Skybolt and Polaris, both afterthoughts in a way—Polaris "cooked up" in a couple of afternoons at Nassau. Now I think that TSR 2 is to go.


My Lords, I think I must interrupt the noble Lord. I do not know why he should say that TSR 2 is to go. There is no question of its being cancelled.


My Lords, I am delighted. I only hope that this denial does not follow the usual pattern of other denials that we have had from Ministers. I remember challenging the First Lord, whom I regard entirely as honourable in these matters (I hope he will not take this personally) on the subject of Skybolt and getting rather similar remarks. But while I am delighted at the moment to know that TSR2 is still included in the programme, I must say that whether it will be still there when the new Ministry of Defence is set up and we have the joint weapons for the Navy and the Air Force, I do not know.

But I was going on to say that we want to know whether this White Paper is primarily just a Paper of rather anodyne remarks. I see that there is the usual reference to flexibility. During the war I served under another officer than my noble friend Lord Douglas of Kirtleside—in fact, a rather more junior group captain who, whenever he was confronted with what was to him a totally incomprehensible situation, used to keep silence for half a minute and then said, "We must have flexibility". There is just a slight touch of that about the White Paper in this matter. But I am hopeful, in spite of the Government's abysmal record. As I say, it may be the fault of the system, or it may be the fault of the man. To a large extent I exclude the First Lord, who has done rather well. We have some anxieties as to whether the policy, to which, as I have already explained, I am emotionally disposed, is going to work. I should like to ask the Government some questions on this aspect. The Foreign Secretary has had to leave the Chamber, but with that usual courtesy for which he is noted, he was kind enough to tell me that he would not be able to hear my speech—a fate probably of no loss to him. But I should like, if possible, an answer to some questions, even though the Government may not have worked out the central organisation for defence, but simply produced a sort of prospectus.

My first main criticism is that, unlike the 1958 White Paper, in the present Paper they have their opening emphasis wrong. It is arguable that this is a debating point, but I assure the noble Lord—and I hope that the Foreign Secretary will confirm this—that it is unfortunate that the second sentence firmly says Authority and responsibility will be vested in a single Secretary of State for Defence"— when in the other White Papers it has been made clear that the overall responsibility is vested in the Cabinet and in what is now to be the Committee on Defence and Overseas Policy. To this extent the emphasis is wrong.

The Government have not learned all the lessons of the past. They have ignored the very real virtues that existed in the Committee of Imperial Defence and the Defence Committee system; and, instead of strengthening this Committee on Defence and Overseas Policy, they are proposing merely to give them some more Committees to support them. There is a Committee and a Committee supporting that; and then, outside, is the new super-fortress—as opposed to the three smaller, but very impregnable, fortresses of the Service Departments. So there will be a super-fortress, and beyond that the Cabinet and the Committee on Defence and Overseas Policy. I believe that the emphasis is wrong, and I ask how far this is in accordance with the proposals put forward to the Government. The noble Lord raised the names of Sir Ian Jacob and Lord Ismay. He used them in the context of expressing appreciation, while being careful not to say that they approved it; but his words were rather inclined to lead us to believe that this is their plan. I should like to know how far this is their plan and how far the emphasis is right in regard to this.

Still on the question of the Committee on Defence and Overseas Policy, it appears to be the same as the Committee that existed before, the Defence Committee. The same people are invited to it, except the First Lord of the Admiralty, the Secretary of State for War and the Secretary of State for Air. And I suppose these wretched Ministers of State will now be included among others who will be invited to be present. Furthermore, the new Defence Council takes the place of the old Defence Board. Council and Board switch from one to the other. The new Defence Council has the same composition as the old Defence Board, except, again, that the Ministers of State have been down-graded. We are going to have a pretty gigantic instrument in the Ministry of Defence, and I should like to know how far some of these new joint organisations have in fact been tested in any way—how far there has been a dry run to see how they will work in certain conditions.

There are certain parts of the proposals of which I am entirely in favour. I think it has been an absolute nonsense in regard to Intelligence that there was a Joint Intelligence Board, but that the more important functions of intelligence were separated out; and, although there was close co-operation through the J.I.C. and certain other bodies, this type of functional unification is very desirable. Where I begin to get anxious is in relation to the Defence Operations Executive. I am sorry to go into this detail, but this is really the nub of my concern. It is proposed that the former operational Chiefs of Staff or Assistant Chiefs of Staff, A.C.N.S., A.C.A.S. (Ops.), and the Director of Military Operations, shall now all be brought together in a Defence Operations Executive. I suppose that under operational conditions, or even under exercise conditions, orders will go straight to Commands. Or will they go in some way through the rumps of the old Admiralty and the Air Ministry? This is a matter of some concern.

We know that the new Ministry of Defence is going to be every bit as large as the old Ministry of Defence, plus the three Service Departments, because that we have already been told. I may have misunderstood the answer to the question asked by the noble Viscount, and also to the question in another place. I think there should be room for economy here, and I shall be delighted if I hear that the orders will go straight to Commands. This would seem to be logical and would be equivalent to a joint headquarters at the highest level. There will of course be a certain loss. The Operations Executive and the Operational Staff will not longer be quite so closely linked to the Operational Requirements Staff. Here there is clearly room for some loss of efficiency.

I may say that generally I support the proposals in regard to operational requirements, and I think that the proposals in regard to the Ministry of Aviation are pretty good. But it is a pretty frightening picture of bureaucracy. I see that I have written down the word "nightmare". I hope it will not be a nightmare, although I suspect that the Secretary of State for Defence, whoever he is, will have a few. Despite the firm statement of the Government that they wish to make a real distinction between policy setting and management, I do not believe they have yet succeeded in doing this. The analogy is always taken with civilian activities, with businesses, for example; but, of course, the degree of policy and operational control that will rest in the centre is vastly greater than in any large-scale organisation which otherwise tries to decentralise. I am not sure that there is not some confusion between function and management.

The same argument can be applied to the attempt to draw up balanced pictures of the three Services. Who for the Royal Air Force takes the place of the Chief of Naval Supplies and the Master General of the Ordnance? In paragraph 27 there is a list of officers. I realise that these Services are of a rather different nature, but here again we have the Staffs of the Principal Administrative Officers of the Royal Navy, Army and the Royal Air Force; the Staff of the Controller of the Navy; the Staff of the Master General of the Ordnance and again the R.A.F. left out. There may be a perfectly good reason.


These are very difficult detailed points to answer at the end of a debate, and perhaps the noble Lord would like an answer now. The reason for that is that while the Royal Navy, and the Army, to a lesser degree, are both responsible for their procurement, the Royal Air Force is not. There, procurement rests with the Ministry of Aviation.


Who, then, does the procurement? We see that we are going to have the staffs, but there is no mention of the Ministry of Aviation. I am a little alarmed about this—I am sure the Navy would be far more alarmed if they lost control of certain of their procurement. Is the operational requirement going to be handled purely by the joint staffs—of whom, I take it, there is at the moment a member of the Air Council—and not by someone who specially has this responsibility? I do not wish to press this point too hard, but these are the questions that will need to be answered.

The same thing arises when we talk about the Joint Signals Organisation. In principle I can see a good case for this, but the signals requirements for certain purposes may be very different indeed. What worries me is that we shall see the separate Services fearing that they are not getting precisely what they want, and building up secretly, or if not secretly, by hook or by crook, their own organisations to make sure that they do get what they want. It is clear that the most ruthless control is going to be needed to make this work, and the ruthless control may be of a kind that will make the Ministry of Defence a rather heated Kremlin-like centre.

Against this is the difficulty, I think, that there is going to be a good deal of political weakness. I am sorry in a way that it has not been possible to have the debate, which I had arranged with the noble Viscount the Leader of the House that we might have one day, on the subject of the structure of Government, because it is very difficult to see how you can gear these high-powered complicated structures into our Parliamentary system. But one way by which you are not going to succeed in doing so is by weakening the political content, and I think we all wonder—and I suspect there are anxieties in the Government itself about this—whether the substitution of Ministers of State for the First Lord of the Admiralty, or whoever it is, is correct. Probably one of the reasons why they are called Ministers of State is that no one has been able to think of a different name. I think the noble Lord, Lord Robertson of Oakridge, suggested they might be called Secretaries, which is quite a good suggestion. Perhaps we might even call them Commissioners. I am sorry myself that we cannot retain the title, First Lord of the Admiralty. I agree wholeheartedly with my noble friend Lord Alexander of Hillsborough when he says that it really is a bit of a nonsense to keep the position of First Sea Lord and not to keep the First Lord, because they are both equally historic titles.

It is for consideration whether we ought not to have gone a good deal further. It is for consideration, also whether there ought not to be further Ministers of a functional kind with responsibility not necessarily direct to a particular Service, but to some particular aspect of the total responsibilities of the Secretary of State for Defence. I do not want to press this now, but what really worries me is that I think the Government have advanced towards a halfway house, and a halfway house which is not really going to be habitable for very long. We had the same curious error from the First Lord as we have had on other occasions, and which the Government keep on pressing—I think the noble Lord, Lord Robertson of Oakridge, emphasised this on another occasion—in that they confuse Service loyalty with loyalty to a unit, to a ship or to a squadron. One totally incorrect remark I heard from the First Lord—and he is very rarely wrong—was that a sailor is a sailor, a soldier is a soldier, and so on. If there is one thing that is true of a sailor to-day, it is that he has always been liable to be a soldier, and now he is also an airman.

It is for consideration whether we might have tackled this whole problem not by setting up a unified Ministry of Defence, but by gradually unifying the Services themselves and preserving their existing Service structures. There has been this interesting suggestion, which has been advocated on previous occasions by Sir Ian Jacob—he has written a book on it, although I do not know whether it formed any part of his present proposals—that all officers above unit command level should in fact belong to a defence service, and no longer be members of the Army, Navy or Air Force. It is possible to give loyalty to a unit or to a concern without being a member of a particular Service. One of the most devoted supporters in battles with the Navy during the war—and I may say that his battles with the Navy were on the Allied side—was in fact an officer very well known to the noble Lord, Lord Douglas of Kirtleside: a Naval captain who had served with the Royal Air Force for a long time and had managed to understand their point of view.

It may well be that this super-Pentagon, which emotionally, as I say, I should like to support, is not going to work as well as it should do. There is the danger of over-centralisation, of the distinction between the functions of policy and day-to-day management not really being clarified, and I would still urge that there is not enough emphasis in it upon overall strategy, on economics and not merely on defence. The Committee on Defence and Overseas Policy should be a real centre of power, and it should be possible to break up the Service vested interest. I wholly agree that the case for breaking up the Service vested interest is still a strong one, but I am not satisfied as yet that the Government have really worked this out. We shall watch with a good deal of interest to see what their more detailed proposals are going to be.


My Lords, could I ask the First Lord to give us a little more information on the point my noble friend has just raised, about the Air Force not being included on the procurement side in that set-up? Because although the Minister of Aviation has, as it were, taken the place of the old Minister of Aircraft Production, it is only really on that side that they could be left out conveniently. They have all the other business of procurement.


My Lords, I think I used the wrong word. I think I should have said "production" and not "procurement", the point being that the Royal Navy produces everything of its own other than aircraft and some guided missiles; the Army produces now—after the Ministry of Supply has broken up—quite a lot of its own equipment; but the Royal Air Force relies for its aircraft and guided weapons and missiles on the Ministry of Aviation.


I think it might be drawn in on this beautiful blueprint.

5.17 p.m.


My Lords, I myself agree entirely with the views which the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, put before you so simply and so shortly. I even have the temerity to agree with much that the noble and gallant Viscount, Lord Montgomery of Alamein, said to your Lordships. But I have to confess that I have always avoided and disliked the Staff work, and I am therefore at a very considerable disadvantage when I find myself confronted by this symposium of organisation.

As a regimental officer I see in this White Paper a very wide river to cross, and I hope that we shall manage to cross it and change horses either on one bank or the other, and not in the middle of the stream. Once again as a regimental officer, my recollections of Staff work make me very anxious. I wonder why it is called a Paper on Defence. Why not call it a Paper on War, and have done with it? That is entirely what it is. Every one of these Services has to do with war, except Civil Defence, and of course they come in in the background to war. The only one of the Services with no offensive part to play is Civil Defence, and so far as I can see it is not mentioned in this White Paper. I fail to connect it in any way with the diagram at the end, unless indeed it is where the word "Budget" comes in. I was delighted just now to hear the noble and gallant Viscount, Lord Montgomery of Alamein, speak up for Civil Defence, and the Civil Defence services will be thrilled to get support from such a high level. I have no doubt whatever of that.

Now is not the time to question the results of the new Civil Defence organisation, but it is the time to ask where and how this fourth arm fits into the new central organisation. Civil Defence is a most complete system affecting ten or more Government Departments; and being, as we were told, an integral part of our defence plans, I hope that we may be shown where and how the Civil Defence functions of these ten Departments are integrated into the new war machine and where the Civil Defence authority gains touch with the Secretary of State for Defence. This information will increase very greatly the interest in the Motion on Civil Defence which has been waiting for debate since last March.

I cannot help feeling that the authors of this new organisation have paid little attention to the fourth arm of the organisation; but, if it is indeed to be an efficient arm, it must be granted some equality of central planning and status with the other three. If its importance is recognised, it must also be seen to be recognised. That I do not find in this White Paper. Finally, if I may bring your Lordships down to earth for a moment, if one turns to the middle of page 11 of the White Paper it will be seen that a Deputy Chief of the Defence Staff is to be of three star rank. I presume that that means an Army captain.

5.22 p.m.


My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Saye and Sele, will, I hope, excuse me if I do not follow him immediately, although I mean to do so in a few moments' time. Before I do that, however, may I turn to what is, perhaps, one of the main subjects of to-day's debate? That, I think, is this: that, notwithstanding what noble Lords opposite have said, I feel that this subject is, in the main, a bipartisan subject—or, with the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, there, a tripartisan subject—if there ever was one. The criticisms which have been uttered by noble Lords opposite have been not so much against the principle of making a further advance in the centralisation of Defence as to the way in which it has been done, and certain fears as to whether the thing is going to work out as we all hope and as my noble friends here intend. But historically, my Lords, this is a non-Party subject. After all, the root cause of the White Paper of 1946 lay in the experiences of the war; and that White Paper was (very rightly, as I think) brought in by the then Government in order to prevent the organisation operated by Lord Ismay, which was set up by the Coalition Government under Sir Winston Churchill, from being broken up.

When I looked at the debate in 1946 I saw that my noble friend Lord Swinton supported that White Paper in principle, and we have supported that principle from that day to this. In fact, everything that has happened from that day to this has made to-day's step more and more irresistible. It is not merely that it was planned, I think, originally, that the 1946 White Paper should be only a first step, but that everything has happened to lead us on to further steps like the present one as the years have gone on. After all, the development of nuclear weapons has come about very largely since 1946 and has contributed vastly to the argument for doing what we have done now. Outside the Services, in civil life, the arguments for integration of businesses and for larger units have become more and more powerful. So I think it is fair to say that if there are criticisms of the actions of the Government in this matter, they are perhaps that we have been unduly held back by certain loyalties and by the need to take the Services step by step towards progressive integration without destroying those loyalties and that spirit of service without which no integration would be of use.

But, my Lords, we have paid quite dearly in the process. We have paid for quite a number of operational muddles, from Suez downwards or upwards, or whichever way you like to go. Therefore, we are perfectly right in saying, in the White Paper, that the references to the 1958 White Paper are fully justified and that the thing has not worked out. You can sum it up by saying that no one in his senses who had any experience in any of the Services could possibly imagine any operation of any size being conducted except as an inter-Service operation. If you take the Army, which I know more about than the other two, Services, it is inconceivable that there should be an operation for a brigade group without certainly the Air Force coming in; and so you cannot in fact deal with operations or intelligence, or, to a large extent, training, on anything but an inter-Service basis.

This point has brought up in the debate a number of thoughts which have been expressed much better than I could express them by noble Lords who have spoken already, so I shall be very short in what I say about them; but I think that one very important point indeed is to ask ourselves whether the present system of selection, initial education and further training for Service officers is going to lead us to produce the type of officer with the background, the experience and everything else, that we want to fill these high positions in the Ministry of Defence as reorganised, from the Chief of Staff downwards. My noble and gallant friend Lord Montgomery of Alamein says that the Minister has to be "a pretty good guy"—I think those were his words. Believe me, my Lords, the Chief of the Defence Staff has to be "a pretty good guy", too.

We are coming to the period when we shall no longer be able to rely, as we have done since the end of the Second World War, on choosing people not so much on their paper qualifications but on the grounds of their practical experience and achievements in command or on the Staff in actual operations; and unless we have our third world war (I think my noble and gallant friend Lord Montgomery of Alamein was going to make certain progress in this integration after the next world war: I am being a little more optimistic and am saying "unless we have our third world war") we shall have to rely entirely on something much more like paper selection for our Chiefs of Staff, and we shall be pitting them against senior civil servants and senior scientists who, under present arrangements, will have much more continuity of tenure of office. That is something which, if we want this new system to work, we shall have to think about very seriously; because, as my noble and gallant friend said (or I think he said something like this), it cannot be taken for granted that Dartmouth, Sandhurst or Cranwell, or our present staff college training, will produce the right answer or the right man.

But I agree wholeheartedly with my noble friend Lord Carrington that we could not at the moment have gone any further in the integration of the Services than is envisaged in this White Paper. While I say this, I feel very strongly that this is only a stage and that further stages of integration are bound to take place as and when the time comes and common sense dictates that they should be undertaken. And, of course, each year that goes by removes certain personal problems. Personal problems have been present in this question of reorganisation of the Defence Services, and each year that goes by sets those personal problems back and makes the problem easier for those who have charge of it.

There is one personal problem, however, which will never disappear, and that is the power held in any Cabinet by any Minister of Defence who is worth his place and is fit for the task. There is no way out of that. All one could possibly say would be that, in times of war or the threat of war, the system must be adopted that was adopted in the last war—namely, that the only person who could be Minister of Defence under those conditions must be also the Prime Minister. But I think it would be a great mistake if we were to accept the converse and to say that because there is danger of too much concentration of power in one hand we must deliberately leave the Ministry of Defence and the Minister less efficient and with less power than he should have.

So may I look at one or two of the points which were mentioned by other noble Lords, particularly by my noble friends, Lord Robertson of Oakridge and Lord Swinton? The first one is the question of Treasury control. There is nothing in the White Paper to show whether the Treasury are, in fact, going to exercise the same measure of control over what are now the three Service Votes, or whether they are going to control the main Vote and leave the detailed control to the Minister and his advisers in the Ministry. That is why I think the point made by my noble friend, Lord Swinton, was very important. His point was that the financial control exercised by the Minister must be equal to the task of dispensing with interference—and I use the word deliberately—by the Treasury. Otherwise a lot of brave new words in those paragraphs which deal with the matter will not be fulfilled.

Those brave new words do, I fear, include rather more clichés to the square inch than one would like to see. I do not want to set myself up as a literary critic; but one looks at paragraph 47 which says: Judgment will play a major part, and for this reason it is essential to call upon the best advice from whatever source. This rather makes one wonder whether this Grandmother of Parliaments is being properly taught to suck her eggs which we are sucking this afternoon. A good many noble Lords have said that unless there is real control and cutting-down of staffs, and if Parkinson's Law is allowed to operate, we shall not get full value for money. We are reaching a point where, instead of talking about the unwisdom of having too big a tail and too few teeth, we are coming to the point of saying that we are getting too big a brain and too few teeth. I do not think that would be a good thing; because, at best, it would be a great waste of national brain power.

Now I come to the other matter mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Robertson of Oakridge, on the relationship with the Ministry of Aviation. I will not deal with that at length, because it has been covered by the other noble Lords; but the crucial point is, who has the last word? Those who know the story of why we had no combat tanks in 1939, and those who know of the drunkard's course steered over the production of guided missiles since the war—and I am sorry that my noble friend, Lord Caldecote, is not here—will know that these matters will never be right when two Ministries have a share in any undertaking of this sort unless it is clearly laid down who has the last word and settles when to go into production. So I will say no more on that because the hour is late.

May I just come back to what my noble friend Lord Saye and Sele said—and I knew he was going to say it—about Civil Defence? I agree with every word he said. Everybody knows that Civil Defence and its relationships with the civilian Ministries form a great and increasing part of our Defence undertaking. You cannot shirk the problems of the relationship of this strengthened Ministry of Defence with the civilian Departments, particularly the Home Office, by failing to say one word about it in the White Paper. Those problems are with us; and, whether they are written about or not, they will come back like the blood on Bluebeard's key; and, whether they are in the White Paper or not, the newly-reorganised Ministry will have to get down to them.

5.35 p.m.


My Lords, I should in any case count it a privilege to take part in a debate on Defence initiated by my noble Leader, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, who has done as much as any man for the defence of this country, both in the dark days of the war and in the hardly less difficult times of peace; but otherwise I should be as diffident as the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, about taking part—and with much more reason; for he has seen gallant service in the war. We have listened to Field Marshals, ex-Prime Ministers and other great heroes of the conflagration. I myself began the war as a private in the infantry, and finished it as a private in the Home Guard. I doubt whether any Member of your Lordships' House can improve on that record—in its own way, of course.

I am emboldened, however, when I think of something that was once said to the noble and gallant Viscount, Lord Montgomery of Alamein, by Sir Winston Churchill in my hearing—and I say at once that I shared the view of the noble and gallant Viscount expressed in a review of his book in the New Statesman by a well-known writer who said that, however controversial his utterances, nothing would ever diminish the gratitude we owe him for his services to the nation or the respect we feel for him as a man. But at the same time (I am sure the noble and gallant Viscount does not mind a lighter note), I can recall something said to him by Sir Winston Churchill in my presence. The noble and gallant Viscount pointed to me, as Sir Winston Churchill approached us, and alluded to the fact that, though I had no hair on top there was an unmilitary cut in other places. Pointing to me he said, "Do you not think his hair needs cutting, Prime Minister?" Sir Winston Churchill replied, impromptu, "Your head, my dear Field Marshal, requires to be compressed under a military cap. He needs his for speaking in the House of Lords." I am sure that the noble and gallant Viscount remembers that great saying. But now that the noble and gallant Viscount has become a politician, we are all equal and can take part in debates on a level footing.

I have some qualifications, because I have occupied these curious positions not perhaps held by everyone in your Lordships' House. I was Under-Secretary for War; I had the status of a Minister of State with special responsibilities when I was Minister for Germany; I was Minister for Civil Aviation outside the Cabinet and First Lord of the Admiralty for a few months and a member of the Defence Committee, still outside the Cabinet. So when we are talking about the fine shades of atmosphere between different levels, I have experienced them all and understand the nuances as well as any man. When I was speaking on this subject in March last I suggested that there was an inherent difficulty in finding the right organisation for defence, because defence, we all agree, ought, if possible, to be unified; and yet, if we unify it, we finish up by placing greater responsibility on one man—the Minister—in theory, and on the Chief officer in practice. Inevitably we are tempted to place on one man, politically, more responsibility than one human being is likely to be able to sustain. That is inherent in the problem.

There is another inherent snag that I did not mention then, and it has come out to-day: that we are trying to unify in one sense or other three Services while retaining their separate identities. That means putting on top of them a co-ordinating machinery which may, in fact, use a great deal of manpower. The question arises whether, if we retain separate Services, as is proposed, it is possible to co-ordinate them in this way without adding to the total manpower. Most of us feel that in the foreseeable future these proposals in the White Paper are likely to increase rather than diminish the number of men and women employed. That is certainly the view of the noble and gallant Viscount, Lord Montgomery of Alamein, who said quite definitely that he thought the total civilian manpower would be increased. And the same point has been made by various speakers, including my noble friend Lord Alexander of Hillsborough. I would ask the noble Earl, Lord Home, if he can throw any light at all on how the Government propose to reduce instead of increase manpower. There is no indication of it, I think it is fair to say, in the White Paper. I do not think that anyone can extract any clues from the White Paper as to how manpower is to be reduced. Most of us have formed the opinion that it is to be increased. I would ask the noble Earl whether he can give us any help at all in our anxieties about the increase of total manpower that seems certain to result.

The other great problem is the over-loading of the central Minister. It seems to me that there are two difficulties here, but for want of time I will treat them as though they were one. On the one hand it seems to me almost certain that this Minister will have more decisions to make than he can make efficiently if he is not to have any Ministers of rank superior to that of Minister of State to help him. That would be quite apart from the problem of the civilian control of the military; but the problem is greatly added to when we agree, as we all seem to, that in the last resort civilians must be placed in a position where they can effectively control the military. It was noticeable that to-day the noble and gallant Viscount, Lord Montgomery of Alamein, insisted rather more strongly than on previous occasions that this problem must be tackled; and I share his view that this problem of the civilian control of the military is not adequately dealt with in the White Paper.


My Lords, I hope that I did not give a false impression. What I meant to say was that there is a danger there, and I think that it must be watched.


My Lords, I do not think that I disagree with that; but I would say that the danger must not only be watched but be dealt with. So I go a little further than the noble Viscount.

I may be asked what difference does it make whether the Secretary of State of War, or at any rate the civilian who is the temporary head of the Army, is called a Minister of State or a Secretary of State, bearing in mind that in any case and for some years he has been outside the Cabinet. This is the area, so to speak, in which I have lived; where my ambitions and all the rest of it have been reflected at every stage of progress. I understand all these little shades as well as anybody. The real point is that the Minister of State has no independent authority of his own. He is simply a representative of the top Minister. As my noble friend Lord Attlee said, he is simply a glorified Under-Secretary. I do not think that there is a great deal of difference.

I turn for a moment to the tasks which he has to perform. I am going to deal only with one or two of them. We shall have these Boards responsible for the routine management of the Navy, Army and Air Force respectively. The Secretary of State for Defence will nominally be the head of every Board but he will normally ask the appropriate Minister of State to act for him as chairman of each Board, and therefore we shall have a Board, which will not be wildly unlike the present Army Council or Board of Admiralty, presided over by somebody who has no independent authority of his own at all. That is the essential point, whether we like it or not.

I presided over the Army Council when I deputised for the Secretary of State for War at the time I was Under-Secretary. But one had no great status in that capacity, and, of course, as First Lord of the Admiralty I presided over the Board of Admiralty and a very different thing that is, if you are the First Lord, even if you are not a member of the Cabinet. I would submit that it will be very difficult, unless some steps are taken to enhance the authority of these Ministers of State (or whatever you like to call them) to perform these tasks appropriately. I should like to put another question which I am sure that the noble Earl will be able to answer, one way or the other, when he replies. What is going to happen to the promotion of the senior staff officers of the three Services? Who will appoint these officers? When I was First Lord these names would come up before me—and in the highest cases I would go to the Prime Minister. But who will now be responsible for making all these appointments, which ordinarily come to the Service Ministers? I hope that the noble Earl has made a note of this point. No doubt there is an answer available; it is a point of great importance. These are certain aspects of the problem.

I might be told, on the other side—and I recognise the force of this—if we are to unify the departmental side of the Services, and therefore abolish the War Office, the Admiralty and the Air Ministry as separate bodies, we cannot continue to make use of the three Service Ministers; because if we do, each Service will retain its own champion and many of the virtues of integration would be lost. That is really, I think, the main reason for down-grading the Ministers: the Government want to deprive the Services of their strong ministerial champions. That may or may not be the reason. But if that is so, may I suggest that there is something at least to be done, even if the Service Ministers cannot retain their existing status, to strengthen them beyond what is proposed in the White Paper?

The suggestion is that they should be called Secretaries, and get more pay than other Ministers of State. I do not know whether pay is essential, but in Whitehall pay seems to carry more prestige than it should. They should be seen to be different from the ordinary Ministers of State, who are regarded as glorified Under-Secretaries, and be clearly identified with the work they are being asked to do. I was a Minister for State and co-operated in that capacity when I was Minister responsible for Germany, but I had perhaps rather more status than the average Ministers of State because I was called Chancellor of the Duchy and a large staff regarded me, for good or ill, as in some way specially connected with them. I was essentially an agent of the Secretary of State—I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Robertson of Oakridge, would agree—but we can give the Minister of State that bit of extra authority if we call him by a title other than Minister of State and link him closely on paper with certain responsibilities for which he will be expected to answer to Parliament. This is clearly an essential point.

We were told by the First Lord that it was going to be essential to make sure that the Secretary of State for Defence was not himself bogged down with administrative detail. If that is so, the question at once arises: how he is going to avoid this administrative detail unless he can find somebody else from whom Parliament will accept an answer? So it is vital to make sure that these Ministers are gentlemen from whom Parliament will accept an answer, and in that sense exercise an authority far different from that exercised by the present Ministers of State. I end, because I know that there is a Royal Commission to come in a moment and many speakers afterwards. I was very much interested—I must read Hansard more carefully—by something the noble Earl, Lord Swinton, said at the end of his speech. I think that he was envisaging an additional Minister who would help the Minister of Defence on the financial side.


My Lords, he would be exactly like the First Financial Secretary in the Treasury.


My Lords, without wishing to tie myself—let alone my Party, which may have other ideas—to that particular solution, I do see that a solution on that line is possible and, on the other hand, that we could have more than one Minister, not necessarily in the Cabinet but with a status comparable to that of the present Service Ministers, who could assist him on a functional line. In other words, there are ways in which it would be possible to disperse a little this over-heavy responsibility which is likely to fall on the Secretary of State for Defence. I am not at all dogmatic; I think it could be done in various ways. I agree with all those noble Lords, and particularly my noble friends on this side of the House, who say that at present this does not provide adequate Parliamentary and political control over defence arrangements. I welcome the move towards integration, but it is not, in my opinion, a complete document, and I would say that before it can be fully acceptable to the nation it must be strengthened in the ways I have indicated.

House adjourned during pleasure.

House resumed.